Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tranströmer - tired of words

During the Nobel Prize party a few days ago, the wife of Thomas Tranströmer, the Novel Laureate in Literature, read this wonderful poem by him:  

Trött på alla som kommer med ord, ord, men inget språk
for jag till den snötäckta ön.
Det vilda har inga ord.
De oskrivna sidorna breder ut sig åt alla håll!
Jag stöter på spåren av rådjursklövar i snön.
Språk men inga ord.

Tired of everybody that comes with words, words, but no language
I traveled to the snow-covered island.
The wild has no words.
The unwritten pages extend outwards in all directions!
I discover the tracks of deer hooves in the snow.
Language but no words.

Thomas Tranströmer [translation by LS]

I can see it in front of me, an island surrounded by frozen water in winter, stillness, no people, just the man and the snow, frozen bare branches, blue icy sky, and a few birds looking for something to eat in the brush.  And then the tracks of the deer, winding its way through the landscape, telling a story without words.
Winter sun
Winter Sun, a photo from the Finnish Baltic archipelago by Niklas Sjöblom (Flickr)

In a way this also reminds me of a very different poem/song, Blå Hjärtans Blues, by Eva Dahlgren.  In English, the song (called Blue Hearts' Blues) starts with these lines (translated by me):
The island lays empty in the winter sea
a last ferry turns back towards the city
at the pier, here I stand
and see my lover choose
My head so heavy of the truth
I see your foot tracks in the snow on the way home
so light steps that say so much more
than frozen words on your lips

Bye baby blue
caresses me in the night
with her sadness
bye baby blue
all these memories
in a dull moonlight blue tune

That is the beginning of this song about relationships, break-ups, winter, ice, and islands, just like Tranströmer's poem. The blues song ('bye baby blue', etc.) she refers to I guess is something by Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday. Listen to Eva performing the song here: Youtube link, and here are the complete Swedish lyrics.

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